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Behind the Look: Jen Atkin’s Journey From Celebrity Stylist to Industry Mogul


By Boulevard

Styling A-listers was just the beginning

What do you want to do with your life?

Most of us are asked this question at some point in our young lives. But typically, a rock star isn’t the one doing the asking. As a recent high school graduate living in Salt Lake City in the early 2000s, Jen Atkin found herself on the set of the 2003 film Where the Red Fern Grows starring the one and only Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band. And when Matthews asked this ubiquitous question over dinner one night, Atkin knew exactly what she wanted.

“I loved Barbie growing up, and I would cut every doll's hair for fun… I loved the idea of transformation. In high school, it was the '90s, and hairstyling was so fun back then,” she said. “I responded to his question with, ‘I really want to work in beauty and move to LA or New York,’ and he was like, ‘You totally should.’”

So she did.

Styling Hollywood

Having grown up in a small Mormon community, Atkin knew she wanted to style hair — but she didn’t think she could. “My parents had me on this path of Mormonism,” she told Popsugar. “The only hair salons I knew of were in strip malls.” That chance encounter with Dave Matthews “really put a fire under our butts,” inspiring Atkin and her best friend to take a leap of faith.

Within a year, the pair had packed up and moved to Los Angeles with very little money and work experience. Atkins soon landed a job as a receptionist at Estilo Salon in Beverly Hills, which was an eye-opening experience for a formerly sheltered Utah kid. “It was also my first-ever time meeting gay men,” she said. “I always joke that when I got to LA, I was raised by gay wolves; I got this amazing education of art, culture, fashion, music, and all these things that I never had growing up.”

Atkin worked her way up from receptionist to manager before landing a role as an assistant at Chris McMillan Salon, where she worked with Madonna’s longtime stylist Andy LeCompte. Coincidentally (or maybe not!) both of these sought after salons are current Boulevard customers. Within a few years, she was styling the backup dancers for Madonna’s 2006 Confessions tour and adding A-listers like Sofia Vergara, Gigi and Bella Hadid, and the Kardashian-Jenner crew to her ever-growing list of celebrity clientele. In 2015, the New York Times called her “the most influential hair stylist in the world.”

And she was just getting started.

Leading the OUAI

After years of working as a stylist to Hollywood’s elite, Atkin noticed her clients had something in common. “They want healthier hair and they have a lack of time,” she said in an interview. In 2016, she launched OUAI, her own brand of hair care products designed to cut down on styling time while delivering A-list-worthy results.

Atkin calls OUAI, pronounced “way,” “a real line for real life.” Rather than “unrealistic hair campaigns,” OUAI simply promises multi-use products for “the girl on the go who only has five minutes to do her hair.” According to its website, OUAI is all about authenticity: “Being better IRL than on Instagram. Letting go of unrealistic expectations. Embracing imperfections.”

Atkin leads with a similar sense of authenticity, and she credits her team of “multitasking AF” women with helping make the brand a success. “It always felt very odd to me that there were a lot of men in boardrooms making decisions about what women want,” she said. “So the fact that the companies I own are made up of a group of women talking to other women about their hair care needs feels pretty empowering.”

As OUAI has expanded its offerings to include skincare and fragrances, Atkin is “always thinking of new ways to innovate the beauty industry while also remaining authentic and creative. I want to empower women… The goal is to stop making the conversation just about women being pretty and start celebrating the spirit and power of being a woman.”

Creating a community

Not content with simply being a hugely successful Los Angeles stylist and hair care guru, Atkin continued to expand her reach with the influential Mane Addicts blog. She began blogging in 2014 to offer styling advice and predict new trends; since then, Mane Addicts has grown into an international community of both stylists and consumers.

“I really wanted to create this playground for consumers to learn about products that brands are coming out with, for professionals to be able to mingle, and for hair enthusiasts to have a place to go and learn information, see tutorials,” Atkin told Forbes in 2022. “At the time, it was just a digital editorial platform… since then it’s grown and morphed into this amazing 360 global community.”

In that time, Mane Addicts’ scope has extended far beyond haircare. “We talk about the planet, we talk about all the things that I think a traditional hair space wouldn't talk about — we talk about people's values and their interests, and aesthetic in general.” She also puts the spotlight on up-and-coming trendsetters with Mane Muse, an interview series whose previous subjects include Yara Shahidi, Zendaya, and Maddie Ziegler. The blog even has its own line of products.

Two decades after her Dave Matthews-inspired leap of faith, Atkin shows no signs of slowing down. She published her autobiography, the cheekily named Blowing My Way to the Top, in 2020. She continues to grow OUAI and Mane Addicts, often sharing styling tips with her 5.3 million Instagram followers. And in 2024, her entrepreneurial journey led her to co-create a talent agency specifically for hair and makeup professionals.

And it all started with a far-fetched dream and some encouragement from a rock star.

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